Fumbling with the Covers

by: Naked Eyes

Fumbling with the Covers is the first Naked Eyes album since 1984, arriving a whopping 23 years after Fuel for the Fire. A lot happened in that near-quarter century, including the passing of keyboardist Rob Fisher in 1999, leaving Naked Eyes as singer Pete Byrne, who, as the voice of the group, does imbibe this with their personality although this doesn't quite sound like classic Naked Eyes, due to the absence of Fisher and, along with it, heavy synthesizers. In their place are gentle, almost imperceptible keyboards and lots of acoustic guitars, all giving this a smooth, delicate feel that plays into the pun of the title, Fumbling with the Covers. This isn't just a covers album -- a covers album where Byrne covers himself, but also Elton John and Jimi Hendrix -- but it's music for time spent underneath the sheets, a smooth romantic album. Of course, "Man out of Time," "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," and, especially, "Cry Baby Cry" aren't exactly romantic music, but Byrne turns them into mood music, sustaining a smooth, refined, and relaxed feel throughout the album, even when he's playing tunes that aren't strictly love songs. This does make Fumbling with the Covers something for a particular taste -- appealing either to longtime Naked Eyes fans who like the group so much they won't be disappointed this isn't synth pop, or to those who like a fine chardonnay after work -- but it's a charming, understated comeback from a group that seemed destined to reside only in history books. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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